|Avengers >> View Post|
Subj: Avengers covers, volume 1, issues 163-177:
Posted: Wed Feb 19, 2003 at 07:16:49 pm EST
Reply Subj: ULTIMATES 8 vs 10 [SPOILERS]
Posted: Wed Feb 19, 2003 at 08:10:04 pm EST
Picking up where I left off...
Although the story itself--featuring Typhon, who only seems to get hauled out for fill-in tales--is virtually negligible, I really like this cover. A great fan of the short-lived Champions, I'm naturally partial to this one (heck! it even features the distinctively designed Champscraft that Kurt Busiek eventually revived for the Thunderbolts). Iron Man slugs Hercules with a blow so powerful he staggers even the Olympian Avenger. Iron Man seems to brace himself with his whole body--legs and right arm positioned for balance--in order to deliver the most destructive punch he can. A great looking Beast, meanwhile, leaps to stop Iron Man, demonstrating what a wonderful feel Perez has always had for the character, a feel that would only deepen with his tenure on the title. The only disappointment here is how little he does with Iceman and Black Widow lying in the background, staggered from the crash of the Champscraft. The famous Perez eye for detail is present everywhere in this and subsequent covers; his already admirable talent was growing by leaps and bounds at this time.
Rating: * * * *
If a cover can suggest the chaos and cacophany of battle, it's this one. This confrontation between the Avengers and the Lethal Legion reminds me of some of John Buscema's tumultuous battle covers. In the center, Living Laser blasts away at a staggered Captain America; Yellowjacket and Wasp futilely attempt to take out a cyclonic Whirlwind; Powerman trounces Black Panther. In the foreground, however, scarlet gloves are raised against the team's opponents, and a voice warns the Legion that they haven't defeated ALL the Avengers. Wanda has become a force to be reckoned with. Again, the background detail Perez works into the compostion is nothing short of stunning. Coin and paper money litter the floor, pictures hang askew on the wall, we can even see through the hole in the back wall into the next room. (Can such detail obsessiveness be healthy, I wonder?). Rating: * * * *
One of the few disappointing Perez covers from this period. The Avengers stand waiting to be crushed by a building toppled by Count Nefaria. The seemingly triumphant red-shaded head of Nefaria himself looms in the upper left-hand corner. Iron Man is supposed to look as if he is trying to stop the building, but his position is awkward, sloppy. The Whizzer stands immobilized, boringly intoning, "He--he knocked the whole building over on us! We'll be crushed!" The Whizzer is a super-speedster: pick up your daughter and get the hell out of there. That's what Pietro would do. I might also complain about the Panther's treatment on these covers. He returns to the Avengers at last only to find himself 1.)hanging helplessly from Graviton's floating island; 2.)
shackled by the Grim Reaper; 3.)punched out by Ant-man; 4.)nearly crushed by falling debris in Ultron's lair; 5.)beaten by Power Man; and 6.)unconcious in Cap's arms as a building falls on them. The guy gets no respect. Rating: * 1/2
Ernie Chan makes an unusual inker for Perez. His work--which I've always liked--is highly distinctive, strongly evident here in Thor's facial features and throwing arm. For the climax of the great Nefaria trilogy, this cover is a little weak. The Vision's presence behind Nefaria is obtrusive and distracting; I assume he's present because he does deliver the ultimate blow to Nefaria. Nevertheless, I'd have preferred a collosal portrait of Thor and Nefaria engaged in a titanic one-on-one struggle, something commensurate with Byrne's awesome battle scenes inside the book; still, the sight of Mjolnir bouncing ineffectively off Nefaria's chest is stunning. Rating: * * *
Speaking of the famous Perez attention to detail...! The characters--Avengers and Guardians--look okay, but the real star of this cover is the Guardian's space station, Drydock. Within the space limitations of a single comics cover, Perez manages to convey the enormity of the station, a vitual city in space. I suspect that with some of these covers, Perez just handed in basic sketch layouts that were filled in by the inker; that may be why Ernie Chan's hand was so evident on the previous one, and Terry Austin's on this one. Austin is a fine inker, but a less successful artist. Many of the figures (Charlie-27, Martinex, Wonder Man bringing up the rear, especially) look more stiff than you might expect from a George Perez illustration. Still, the detail and grace of the architecture make this a memorable work. Rating: * * *
This Perez/Austin collaboration, though, is a keeper. The assembled team crashes through a wall to find...who???...in their headquarters. A nefarious figure (in plaid pants, with cuff links) sits with his back to us--in Captain America's chair of all places (a nice touch that). The villain, of course, proves to be none other than Henry Peter Gyrich (who knew he would one day achieve national notoriety thanks to the X-men film). The assembled Avengers look terrific, rushing into action, Thor especially, bringing up the rear, strikes a battle-ready pose that makes his power evident. Rating: * * * *
A dud of a cover for a dud of a generic fill-in tale. A doomsday device hovers near the Avengers logo, radiating energy that divides the cover in three. On the left Iron Man blasts away at Commies in Red Square; in the center, Cap runs madly from a big bird; on the right, Black Panther (still not getting much respect) finds himself in mortal combat with two polar bears (well, at least it's not Man-Ape). Dave Cockrum's Cap looks fine--if uncharacteristically cowardly--but otherwise this cover is a dog. Rating: * 1/2
A beauty of a cover! Cap and Iron Man flank a terrified looking Jocasta, protecting her from attack by Wonder Man, Thor, and the Pyms. Iron Man staggers Simon with a repulsor blast, while Yellowjacket blasts Cap's shield with his disruptors. This is a nicely composed cover, especially for any fan who had been following the dramatic rift that had been developing between Cap and Iron Man in recent issues. Here they not only stand side-by-side, but do so agaist their fellow founding Avengers. Also of note here, is the way the background cityscape and full moon frame and enhance the drama. I'm a great fan of this original design for Jocasta, all sleek and silvery.
Rating: * * * * 1/2
And things just kept getting better! Perhaps the best of the various solo Scarlet Witch covers is the famous "Shards of Crystal Doom," in which Wanda clutches her head, surrounded by cystal images of her fellow Avengers defeated or dead with a reflection of Ultron looming above them all. Perhaps the most amazing thing about George Perez is his ability to more strongly distinguish the faces and bodies of his characters than almost any other comics artist. His Scarlet Witch looks nothing like his Ms. Marvel who looks nothing like his Wasp. Wanda is not simply another voluptuous babe in spandex (although she is certainly that); her features and build are hers alone, never moreso than on this affecting cover. Rating: * * * * *
Arguably the best cover portait of Hawkeye ever! Clint stands atop a ship, arrow drawn and notched. I know little about archery, but does anyone draw a bow and arrow in use as well as Perez? Even his Yondu on Avengers #167 is striking. Clint's pose is not only dramatic, but you can actually sense the muscle he's putting into drawing the bow string back. The Avenger floating heads--though unnecessary--are positioned nicely here, two on each side of the bowman, not simply looking down from above as usual. The orange/yellow sky in the background nicely complements this great portait. Rating: * * * * *
How could I fail to appreciate a cover that features the return of Hercules and Black Widow to the team? Iron Man, Hawkeye, and Wasp look on helplessly as the former Champions and Yellowjacket are teleported from the mansion. The faded (pre-computer) coloring effect used for the three teleportees works nicely; it's as clear as it could be that they are victims of teleportation, not simply trapped in a force field. The facial expressions here are marvelous and right on: Hercules looks outraged, Yellowjacket looks stunned, Wasp looks devastated, and so on.
On the mansion walls hang portaits of Vision and Thor, something of a Perez signature. Rating: * * * *
This "Captured by the Collector" cover displays some of the same Austin stiffness mentioned above, notably in the figures of Hawkeye and Iron Man. Still, it isn't at all bad and features nice Perez detailing on the Collector's various weapons and machines. Knit-pickers will object to the presence of a captured Beast on this cover, as he had his hands full assisting the X-men with Mesmero and Magneto at this time.
Rating: * * *
A fine if generic Cockrum cover featuring five Avengers--Thor, Vision, Iron Man, Scarlet Witch, and Yellowjacket--framed by the cosmically powered figure of Michael/Korvac. Korvac's portrayal here seems derived from that of Eternity, humanoid features outlining a celestial scenescape of stars and planets. Rating: * * 1/2
The weakest of the Korvac covers is this early effort from John Romita, Jr. A group of Avengers face-off against the cosmically-charged Korvac, this time merely in outline, enveloped in an energy sheathe. None of the Avengers look particularly good here, and most of them look pretty bad, Wonder Man the worst of the lot. Rating: *
This final chapter of the Korvac sage--"...These Who Lay Dying!"--is by Cockrum and Austin (although their cover signature cryptically warns "sort of"). Dead and dying heroes lie strewn amidst the debris of an awful battle. Dr. Donald Blake works feverishly to save the life of a prone Hawkeye. Most of the figures here have a mannequin stiffness; the carnage is clear, but not as moving as it perhaps should be. What I do admire about this cover, though, is the chutzpah it took to show only the aftermath of one of the Avengers most devastating battles ever, not the pitched battle itself, a curious decision that might have been nicely realized by worthier artists (Perez or Byrne, obviously, but perhaps even Cockrum in his prime). The inconsistencies of this and the covers just previous are almost a kind of metaphor for the inconsistencies of the Korvac saga as a whole: grandly conceived, ambitious in scope, flawed in execution, but still fascinating in realization. The saga remains, in my opinion, one of the half-dozen or so watershed moments in Avengers history.
Rating: * * *
More to come......
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